Know Thy Enemy: The 2004 Toronto Blue Jays

The Toronto Blue Jays were a struggling team. What happened to the once-mighty Blue Jays, winner of two World Series back-to-back in the early ’90s? Incompetent general managing got to them, and this soon became a team much like the Boston Bruins – good, but not good enough. Unwilling to really take an interest in this team, the general manager was content to stay in third. No longer.
A new idea took place in Billy Beane disciple, JP Ricciardi who immediately formed the notion of “on-base percentage” into the Toronto Blue Jays, while also creating the team in his own vision and not being a slave to the OBP.
What he has created is a team that could possibly be stronger than those back-to-back World Champions.
DH Josh Phelps is someone who can catch and play first in a pinch. He also has a good batting eye, but a low batting average, too low to be somebody. He has thump on the ball, though, hitting 20 HR last year in just under 400 at bats.
C Kevin Cash/Greg Myers both comprise an “old” catching tandem. Greg Myers surprised many last year. Can he keep it up – with a lot more at bats? Can Kevin Cash be another Tom Wilson? The position to watch all year.
1B Carlos Delgado is a determined man who blew up last year after “struggling” the last two years. It’s his contract year, look for an MVP-worthy season from him.
2B Orlando Hudson is a young up and comer who thinks JP Riccardi, Toronto GM, was a pimp back in the day. While his on-base percentage needs improving, Hudson is the best second baseman in the AL East. May not be saying much, but he’ll be one of the best in the majors soon.
SS Dave Berg/Chris Gomez/Chris Woodward play at a strong position in MLB, a weak one in Toronto. Low batting averages and on-base percentage seem to be the trademark of this group. Toronto should make sure that because their SS’s will not have All-Star seasons, nor even close, that they slot the best defensive shortstop in there.
3B Howie Clark/Eric Hinske both can thump the ball. Hinske, the 2002 Rookie of the Year, is coming off an injured and horrible season. If he can regain his 2002 swing, the Blue Jays will be immeasurably better.
RF Reed Johnson/Jayson Werth both came out of nowhere. The Blue Jays believe Werth has untapped potential at the plate, but right now all he is good for is his blazing speed. Johnson came out of nowhere and should be able to adequately nail down an outfield spot until Gabe Gross is good and ready.
CF Vernon Wells was a 100-RBI man the last two years and is entering at 25. This is a player you build your club around.
LF Frank Catalanotto can flat out hit, and after getting his shot two years ago in Texas, finally got it again last year and delivered. He can hit for average with a good on-base percentage and is a very good table-setter for Toronto.
And an open bench spot
SP Roy Halladay/Miguel Batista/Ted Lilly/Pat Hentgen/Josh Towers anchor a much-improved rotation. While Josh Towers is a risk at number five, the other starters should be able to stablize a rotation that was shaky last year. With a settled rotation, we should see even better numbers from Halladay and a more solid performance all around.
RP Aquilino Lopez/Justin Speier/Kerry Ligtenberg/Terry Adams/two open spots all provide a formidable bullpen. Lopez burst onto the scene last year as a Rule 5 pick, while Speier has posted solid statistics in Colorado and in turn, should see his ERA lower. Ligtenberg is an underrated reliever who will be able to shoot through the 7th and the 8th no problem, while Adams can be the long man out of the bullpen and log very valuable innings. Their manager, Carlos Tosca, plans to carry 11 pitchers, which leaves two open spots for pitchers such as Bob File, Justin Miller, and Valerio de los Santos. All of those pitchers are good pitchers in their right and should contribute innings.
When It

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Born on the 37th anniversary of the the day Babe Ruth died (1985) which later became the day Jimy Williams was fired in 2001 (a monumental event at the time), Evan was too young to experience the pain 1986 brought, but a deep wound was sowed in 2003. Since then, Fire Brand has become a blog that Red Sox “club officials read,” as per Peter Gammons. Evan enjoys working out, writing, reading, quality television, science fiction and history and being newly married. He is a professional baseball journalist as well as president of a state non-profit and member of the Board of Directors for a national profit. (Twitter.)

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